ANDREAS Mendes’ Tips on Studying Abroad
ONTARIO, Canada — ANDREAS Mendes is a St Lucian studying Information Technology in Canada. As an international student, Andreas took time out to share some tips on studying abroad.
Mendes is about to complete his degree in information technology at York University and is awaiting the start of a one-year internship at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in September, which he hopes will lead to permanent employment.
Mendes, who is from St Lucia, is quick to point out that his road to success was not laid with roses, telling the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday that in addition to partial scholarships he obtained based on academic performance and involvement, he worked to pay his way through college. He said he was sharing his tips on studying abroad story with the hope of helping prospective international students prepare for the realities of studying abroad.
“When I came here in Toronto one of my fears, especially coming from the Caribbean, was getting a job here. And one of the things employers always asked was, ‘Do you have any experience?’
“I am on my fourth year now and one of my goals was to get into an internship programme and get a co-op. Now, with the help of the university, especially with the career centre … I had skills that I didn’t know I have and thanks to the help of jobs that I did back home,” he said, adding that after he had graduated from St Mary’s College in St Lucia, he matriculated to a community college from which he obtained an associate’s degree. He was, however, unable to take the next step due to financial constraints, so he took a one-year break.
“It was a little difficult, especially in my last year of high school, because high school is free and if you want to go and further your education you have to pay. My parents let me know that it was going to be a little difficult to pay for it and from that point after I graduated I made a promise to take a year off to work,” he explained.
Mendes, who had his mind set on studying in Canada after attending a career fair while in high school, said he landed a job as a customer service representative at a telecommunication company and, with assistance from his parents, was able to accumulate the tuition fee.
“It is there if you actually really want it,” he said Tuesday. “It’s pretty much there, from my experience.”
The interview with Mendes was part of the annual EduCanada Guidance Counsellors and Media Tour hosted by the High Commission of Canada in Kingston, Jamaica, under the auspices of Global Affairs Canada and Canadian education partners. The five-day tour is geared at equipping guidance cousellors with the relevant curricular, financial and cultural information to adequately inform and guide those of their students who are interested in studying abroad.
This year the tour featured eight institutions of higher learning in Ontario — Sheridan College, Humber College, York University, Seneca College, Loyalist College, University of Guelph, Niagara College, and Brock University.
Mendes, meanwhile, is excited at the prospect of the job already waiting for him.
“The employer already told me that depending on how I work, I have a position to come back with them, so during the one-year period I will be paid as a full-time worker. I will be getting experience in different departments in the IT field and they also made me know that if I am interested in coming back, I have an opportunity to come,” he said, noting that he therefore plans to leave them with a good impression
“My goal is to make sure that I can secure that position because my field is very competitive,” Mendes said. The 24-year-old revealed that when he arrived in the North American country he was an introvert, but stressed that it is necessary for international students to crawl out of their shells and get involved.
“My first year I was shy; I didn’t ask questions because where I’m from in St Lucia it’s like 180,000 people. My college has 2,000 people and then coming to York, which is 65,000, I realised that if you don’t talk it’s not like home where your professors would ask if you’re ok. No, they wouldn’t ask; you would just get lost in the cycle. So my advice if you are shy is just to ask questions,” Mendes advised.
In addition to that, he argued that international students should research their opportunities. In fact, he said his research was what led him to endless opportunities, such as a CAD$1,000 scholarship which assisted with his tuition, as well as well as part-time jobs that allowed him to finance his way.
“The good thing about York is that there are a lot of bursaries and grants, and a lot of students are not aware but they are open for all students. One summer I applied and my grades were really good and the school actually paid my tuition. They paid for my classes because I applied for the bursaries and grants, and one of the things that gave me a better opportunity is that I was involved on campus — they like to see that [you are] involved,” Mendes continued.
“I do security for the Scotiabank arena, so I do security for the basketball and soccer games and again, I got that position because I was looking online. I get paid for that and it’s flexible. I chose when I want to work,” he said, adding that his dreams are now falling into place.
Among his long-term dreams, said Mendes, who is currently a peer advisor in the Liberal Arts and Professional Faculty, is to return to St Lucia and help develop his country where technology is concerned.
Source: The Jamaica Observer